Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Obelisk (Greek, "pointed pillar," originally "spit"), a four-sided tapering column with an apex of pyramidal form. The ancient Egyptian obelisks were usually monoliths, consisting of a single piece of red granite or syenite. The proportions of these obelisks were always nearly the same; thus the thickness at the base was about one-tenth of the height, and the diminution in thickness between base and summit usually varied from one-fourth to one-third. The pyramidion or cap was commonly covered with bronze or gold and on the faces of the shaft were carved inscriptions reciting the names and titles of kings. They are usually found in pairs in front of temples, and were probably erected in all cases to commemorate some particular event. Many of the Egyptian obelisks were removed to Rome, and the loftiest now existing, 108 feet in height, stands near the church of St. John Lateran. One of the two called Cleopatra's Needles was presented to Great Britain by Mehemet Ali in 1833; but its transport to England did not take place till 1878. This obelisk, 68-1/2 feet high, now stands on the Thames Embankment.